Broadband doesn’t change Internet users’ behavior — a least not in the ways we’d expect. A new study from the UK says that broadband users don’t necessarily gravitate to “broadband” applications, treat the Internet as “always on”, or even increase their use of content.
The UK experience is slightly skewed, because most phone calls (and therefore most dial-up connections) are billed by the minute there. The biggest effect the researchers found was the users were more leisurely in their use because the clock wasn’t running in their heads.
The conclusion of the study — consumers don’t find faster connections or always-on connections compelling benefits of broadband — is dramatic. The benefit are more subtle: a better-quality experience.
I’ve always believed that broadband adoption didn’t demand broadband content. Broadband improves the quality of the standard Web experience in much more subtle ways, making it more responsive and more like…print.
Clearly, broadband enables uses that are tedious on modem connections: e.g. Flash, P2P, background streaming, downloads. But these applications are icing on the cake of a better Web experience.
Here in the US, broadband adoption is lagging our expectations, and most consumers don’t believe the benefits justify the expense. As the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is gutted de facto by the cable and telephone monopolies and de jure by the FCC, the price is rapidly rising. Meanwhile, the copyright hoarders are pushing digital rights management as necessary to “unleash” the broadband-only content that they claim will pull broadband adoption.
Broadband adoption is being held back by a lack of competition, not an excess. Only when real competition drives the price of broadband access down to a price set by the market will we see wide broadband adoption. I doubt the price is much over $20/month. And in a competitive market, there is no doubt that the winning providers could make a nice living at that price.